lettered: (Default)
[personal profile] lettered
The plan was never to keep the same journal title. [profile] kita0610 was my inspiration; she used to change hers fairly frequently. It was such a delight to get comments from 'psychotic glitter display' and 'the Accidental Puffin' or whatever. But I haven't changed mine in a while now. This is a long story.

I got a comment on The Chuck Writes Story: An Unauthorized Fandom Biography that began, "Holy shit! It's turtles all the way down!" I'd never heard this phrase before, and didn't know what it was refrencing.

A few weeks later, I was wondering about the origin of the phrase, "boy howdy." I googled it and found this article, from The Word Detective. The article contained the line, "Someone should tell those physicists that they’re wasting their time searching for that Grand Unified Theory of Everything. It’s Howdy Doody all the way down." This is still my dreamwidth title.

I realized that, "It's ____ all the way down" must be a quote or meme or something, so I googled that. According to Wikipedia, "turtles all the way down" is a reference to the infinite regress problem of cosmology. I'd read A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking before, but I hadn't remembered this story, contained in that book:

A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's tortoises all the way down!"


To me, this story is about more than infinite regress. It's about the fact that humans have explanations for everything, but also that our explanations become too big for even us to understand, and in so doing, they can become somewhat nonsensical. I kind of feel that our understanding of reality itself is self-referential--I'm not trying to be solipsistic but rather suggest that there's just so much that we don't know, that any explanation begins to sound stupid. The turtles argument sounds silly, but so does God, and when you get right down to it, so does the Big Bang. That's not to say that there isn't good evidence to support the Big Bang, just that there are a lot more questions than answers at this point, and when it comes to how much we really don't know--well, we could find out the answer is really turtles. And then wouldn't we all look very foolish.

So, anyway, the point of Hawking's story seems to be that people are ridiculous, while to me, the story is rather about the the unknowability of the world, the inventiveness of the human mind, its ability to hold beliefs that are sublime and yet ridiculous, and the fact that certainty, of any kind, is impossible. So, I'd prefer not to use the phrase itself as a title, lest it be dismissed--I'd rather use a journal title that references faith and the human spirit and things that are themselves sublime and yet ridiculous.

Enter the lion turtle. If you have not seen it, the lion turtle is a creature from the show, Avatar: the Last Airbender. A:tLA is my favorite show I have ever seen. It's classic Joseph Campbell style "hero's journey"--chosen one goes on a quest, defeats the bad guy, saves the world.

However, when I started watching A:tLA I was pretty burned out on this whole genre by Harry Potter. HP sets up a lot of themes about the importance of empathy, compassion, and love, but imo does not follow through. Yes, Lily's love saves Harry, and Harry has more friends than Voldemort. But I don't feel like Harry defeated Voldemort because he was empathetic, compassionate, or loving, and if you don't need those qualities to defeat the Big Bad--then they're not the essential qualities of being a hero. They're just good to have.

I mean, it's Harry's wand, in the end, that defeats Voldemort--right? Honestly it's unclear. And the wand chooses the wizard, I guess, but it's not even Harry's wand at that point, is it? It's Draco's? And it's great that Harry doesn't kill Voldemort, but Voldemort still had to die. He basically dies by accident. So I guess you could argue that if you're like, empathetic and compassionate enough Truly Bad People will do stupid things and accidentally off themselves, but idk.

What I want from something like HP is something that shows us that the death penalty isn't necessary. Bad guys don't have to die. Good guys don't have to kill them. Good guys have to understand that bad guys are human beings, and that it doesn't matter what they've done. You've got to have the fundamental respect for human life and dignity that the bad guys don't have, because this is what separates you from them. This is what elevates the battle from "I'm right and you're wrong."

So anyway, in A:tLA, the Chosen One is angsting about how he doesn't want to kill the bad guy. This was so much like HP that I was just rolling my eyes, waiting for the moment when the bad guy fell off the cliff or accidentally AK'ed himself or whatever. Instead . . . there's a lion turtle.

The lion turtle tells the Chosen One the secret of how to make the Bad Guy stop hurting people, without killing the Bad Guy. The Chosen One follows the advice of the lion turtle, manages to disarm the Bad Guy and stop him from ending the world, while at the same time not killing the Bad Guy or having him die accidentally. The Chosen One wins. Bad Guy goes to prison, and Bad Guy's son and Chosen One knit the world together and teach everyone about human dignity and respect. Everyone goes home.

This is literally The Best Thing That Has Ever Happened. Ever.

That said . . . the lion turtle comes from the ass of the people who created A:tLA. There was very little foreshadowing of the lion turtle. It is completely deus ex machina. It exists solely to get around the problem of having the Chosen One commit murder, or having the Bad Guy die accidentally.

I literally cannot find a single fuck to give about how badly the lion turtle is introduced to the text, though. The lion turtle is there, and I am made of happiness.

So, what if that turtle that holds the universe isn't just a turtle, but a lion turtle? Well, I like to believe there is something in each of us--or most of us, anyway--that is whispering the secret of how we can not hurt each other and still save the world. That whisper in our ears is ridiculous; it doesn't exist. The idea of the soul was pulled out of someone's ass in prehistoric times and we all pretend it's true because it makes us comfortable.

But what if it is true, and we are standing on the lion turtle, and the lion turtle is standing on the lion turtle--then how foolish we would look, if we were not compassionate toward our fellow men; if we decided to hurt them and kill them instead of finding the way we can all work together.

So that's the story of my livejournal name, [personal profile] icmezzo.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-14 04:58 am (UTC)
original_fine: (kirk/spock: smiling)
From: [personal profile] original_fine
I love you.

So. Fucking. Much. Right now.

And yes, I know what account I'm commenting from.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-14 05:09 am (UTC)
original_fine: (state: disheveled)
From: [personal profile] original_fine
We can make that happen, brosis.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-14 05:11 am (UTC)
original_fine: (neutral: concern)
From: [personal profile] original_fine
Is there more than one of you?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-14 05:29 am (UTC)
original_fine: (happy: flirt)
From: [personal profile] original_fine
I can handle that.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-14 05:47 am (UTC)
amalthia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amalthia
I loved your post and I agree AtLA had an awesome ending even if the Lion Turtle appeared out of nowhere. Though I think lion turtles are mentioned in passing at some point in the series.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-14 06:55 pm (UTC)
amalthia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amalthia
agreed! :)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-14 05:55 am (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] staranise
I think I just exploded from awesome. Thank you.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-14 10:38 am (UTC)
catpella: Imperial logo and Aurebesh text of guild name (Default)
From: [personal profile] catpella
Beautiful.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-03-14 06:18 pm (UTC)
femmenerd: (Default)
From: [personal profile] femmenerd
YOU ARE SO GREAT.

And now I am thinking of that time when Xander saves the world with hugs, and imagining what it would have been like it that method could have worked on other Big Bads.

Also, I'm slightly thrown off kilter about how I missed your foray into SPN fandom.

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lettered: (Default)
It's Lion Turtles all the way down

January 2015

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